Herb: Meadowsweet

Latin name: Filipendula ulmaria

Synonyms: Spiraea ulmaria, Ulmaria pentapetala

Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Medicinal use of Meadowsweet:

Meadowsweet has a very long history of herbal use, it was one of the three most sacred herbs of the Druids. The leaves and flowering stems are alterative, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, stomachic and tonic. The plant is harvested in July when it is in flower and can be dried for later use. The flower head contains salicylic acid, from which the drug aspirin can be synthesised. Unlike the extracted aspirin, which can cause gastric ulceration at high doses, the combination of constituents in meadowsweet act to protect the inner lining of the stomach and intestines whilst still providing the anti-inflammatory benefits of aspirin. The herb is a valuable medicine in the treatment of diarrhoea, indeed it is considered almost specific in the treatment of children's diarrhoea. It is also considered to be a useful stomachic, being used to treat hyperacidity, heartburn, gastritis and peptic ulcers, for which it is one of the most effective plant remedies. It is also frequently used in the treatment of afflictions of the blood. Meadowsweet is also effective against the organisms causing diphtheria, dysentery and pneumonia. This remedy should not be given to people who are hypersensitive to aspirin. A strong decoction of the boiled root is said to be effective, when used externally, in the treatment of sores and ulcers. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh root.

Description of the plant:


120 cm
(4 feet)

June to


Habitat of the herb:

Wet ground in swamps, marshes, fens, wet woods and meadows, wet rock ledges and by rivers, but not on acid peats.

Edible parts of Meadowsweet:

Root - cooked. Young leaves - cooked as a flavouring in soups. Young leaves, flowers and roots are brewed into a tea. The dried leaves are used as a flavouring, especially as a sweetener in herb teas. The flowers are used as a flavouring in various alcoholic beverages and in stewed fruits. Adding them to wine or beer is said to make a very heady brew. They are also made into a syrup which can be used in cooling drinks and fruit salads.

Other uses of the herb:

A black dye is obtained from the roots. It is brown. A yellow dye is obtained from the plant tops. An essential oil obtained from the flower buds is used in perfumery. The whole plant, but especially the leaves, was formerly used as a strewing herb, imparting an almond-like fragrance. Strongly aromatic, its delightful perfume would completely fill the room. Both flowers and leaves have been used in pot-pourri, retaining their scent for several months. The scent of the dried flowers becoming more and more pleasant with age.

Propagation of Meadowsweet:

Seed - best sown in the autumn in a cold frame. The seed can also be sown in a cold frame in spring, germinating best at a temperature of 10 - 13C. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer if they have grown enough. If not, keep them in a cold frame for the winter and plant them out in late spring. Division in autumn or winter. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Wet ground in swamps, marshes, fens, wet woods and meadows, wet rock ledges and by rivers, but not on acid peats.

Known hazards of Filipendula ulmaria:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.